Linhas de Torres wine route
The Linhas de Torres wine route takes its name from the line of military fortifications built during the Napoleonic invasion to stop the French reaching Lisbon. Wines from the area of the Linhas de Torres wine route have been exported since the 12th century. Wellington’s soldiers drank it as they marched through the countryside and liked it so much they ordered regular shipments of two of its most famous labels, Bucelas and Carcavelos, once they were back in Britain.
The wines near Torres Vedras, an important stop on the Linhas de Torres wine route, are fruity and fragrant with a freshness that comes straight off the Atlantic, while further south the reds have a reputation for their softness.
Stage 1: The Linhas de Torres wine route starts in the south of the Silver Coast in the town of Arruda dos Vinhos, a place rooted in a wine-making tradition that goes back almost a thousand years. Worth seeing here are the Igreja Matriz (Mother Church) of Arruda dos Vinhos, the chapel of São Lázaro, the baroque fountain in the centre, the Chapel of Senhora do Monte and the 18th Century Morgado Palace, home now to the municipal library. After working up a thirst head for the first stop on the Linhas de Torres wine route, the Adega Cooperativa de Arruda dos Vinhos (Tel: 263 975 125). Guided tours of the cellars, with wine tasting, are by appointment.
Stage 2: Drive through a landscape of vines, orchards and vegetable gardens to Sobral de Monte Agraço, a rural town – with working windmills – set in the heart of a soft agricultural landscape. The views on this part of the Linhas de Torres wine route are spectacular – from the top of the town’s Forte de Alqueirão, 440 metres above sea level, it is possible to see the entire region.From here the Duke of Wellington watched as the Linhas de Torres stood firm against the French advance. In the centre of the town don’t miss a visit to the 16th Century Church of São Quintino, with its Manueline portal and beautiful tiles. In Praça Pombalina the Church of Nossa Senhora da Vida, the bandstand and the statue of Doctor Eugénio Dias are all worth visiting.
Stage 3: The next three stops along the Linhas de Torres wine route are at vineyards on the road to Torres Vedras. The first two are Casa da Ribeira de Maria Afonso (Tel: 261 712 129) and Quinta da Folgorosa (Tel: 261 760 621). Further along the road, and hopefully just about the time the thirsty traveller is in need of teatime refreshment, is Quinta do Manjapão (Tel: 261 951 119). All three offer tours of their vineyards and cellars, wine tasting and an opportunity to buy their products, but prior booking is essential.
Stage 4: The Linhas de Torres wine route winds to a close in the the town of Torres Vedras, where the retreat of the French during the Napoleonic War began. But the town is not just famous for its military history. It also boasts important religious architecture in the 16th Century Graça Convent, home of the Municipal Museum and its section dedicated to the Napoleonic Wars; the 13th Century Forte de S. Vicente; and the Church of São Pedro, which is distinguished by a large dragon that adorns the entrance. Outside the town the Convento Franciscano do Varatojo, built by King D.Afonso VI to give thanks for military success in the North of Africa, and the Castro Calcolítico do Zambujal are both worth a visit at the end of the tour.